Haskins Family Farm

  (Middletown, Virginia)
Growing for the community, growing for the future!
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Winter poultry production

At the Leesburg Winter Farmers Market today, I had a lady complain that every time she came to the winter market, we were out of chicken. I explained to her that we have limited production space for winter meat chickens. Visualize two sides of a corn crib where the corn used to be stored -- enough space for about 100 chickens/month, from age day 1 until day 70 when they are butchered. It's hard for folks to understand how hard winter production is, when you are doing it on a small scale and on a limited budget.

Chickens need to have supplemental heat during the winter. Otherwise, they "pile on" each other and suffocate. Or, their waterers freeze.

The growers for the Big Boys (Tyson, Purdue, etc.) all have large heated buildings with good insulation and large propane bills, designed expressly for chicken production year round. I have a corn crib built in 1909 which is meant to dry corn, not raise chickens in! I have made due. This year, I started putting up OSB (oriented strand board, or cheap plywood) on the sides so the wind doesn't blow right through, which helped tremendously with keeping the birds alive during the windiest and coldest times. Also, I started using my brooding device (a 4 foot by 4 foot wood box/cover with 4 250 watt heating lamps) as a heat source for the chickens, even after the brooding stage (after about 4 weeks old). Not very efficient energy wise, but it's cheap to build and it works for the scale I am working at.

 What we're planning on doing, when we get big enough, is to build a building that will act as a brooder during the summer months and then as a winter production facility for chicken! But the capital required to build such a building is not available, yet.

So in the meantime, I'll continue explaining to folks why I can't keep up with demand during the colder months. If only I had $25,000....

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